Although Richard Armitage exhibits them readily, kindness/indulgence/mildness/forbearance are not exactly qualities that most people would associate with the bellicose Romans. Nevertheless, CLEMENTIA was counted among the VIRTUTES ROMANAE, the qualities to be aspired to by all citizens. The closest English cognate to CLEMENTIA is clemency or mercy. The unlikely poster boy for this aspect of CLEMENTIA was none other than Julius Caesar.
Incoming…another historical side trip…
Julius Caesar, the conqueror of Gaul, the dictator of Rome, the last nail in the coffin of the flailing Republic, started out as impoverished but ambitious Roman aristocrat. A man of tremendous political and military acumen, he maneuvered himself into immense power first by allying with the voting power of the working classes, despite his elite pedigree, and then by forming an “unholy trinity” with two other ambitious men, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus. The three pooled their resources in order to pull an end run around the beleaguered and corrupt political process of the last stage of the Republic. A power play that would serve their individual purposes well. As happens with alliances of ambitious and power hungry people, this one ended up in civil war in 48 BC. Guess who came out on top?
Caesar was not the first individual to seize sole power in 1st century BC Rome…in fact, he had run afoul of Sulla as a very young man. Evidently Caesar learned something from the experience. Lucius Cornelius Sulla had cut a bloody path through the Roman elite, purging any and all political opponents in order to “clean up” the corruption in the government. By contrast, in the wake of the civil war, Caesar famously offered full pardon – Clemency – to anyone who had fought against him. He went one step further and included many of his former enemies in high positions within his dictatorship (this turned out rather badly for Caesar in the end obviously) The actual sincerity of Caesar’s mercy has long been suspect, but it served it’s purpose in that whether the pardoned elites believed it sincere or not, the common people of Rome – Caesar’s power source – certainly did…especially after the consecration of a temple of CLEMENTIA CAESARIS in 44BC.
So, CLEMENTIA certainly has a famous instance of association with mercy and clemency, which actually seems to have slanted how the term has cognated into modern English usage. In Latin however, this word appears much more commonly with a slightly different meaning related to indulgence, forbearance, mildness and kindness…or so says the literature on the Roman Virtues. I was skeptical, since it fit my purposes almost too nicely, so I looked it up via the PERSEUS PROJECT:
As you can plainly see, the entry for definition II of CLEMENTIA shows that this sense of the word appears quite commonly among prose writers…especially with writers like Cicero and Seneca…who had a great interest in Roman moralia.
We have had daily proof in recent weeks that Richard Armitage embodies the Roman Virtue of CLEMENTIA as he graciously appears at the Old Vic stage door night after night…only minutes after what pretty much everyone describes as a physically grueling performance…to indulgently and kindly interact with fans. Account after account confirms that despite the fact that he must be tired, he is kind and pleasant, signing autographs and taking selfies. He appears to be very well aware how much it means to fans to meet him, however brief the meeting might be. CLEMENTIA in the flesh it seems!